“Do you have any Tylenol?,” the customer asked the clerk at the airport newsstand.

The rack was empty.

“One minute,” she replied.

“Let me check in the back.”

But the clerk returned empty-handed.

“We’ve been selling a lot of that lately.”

True story.

And the reason behind that truth may be that there has been an uptick, both nationally and locally, in body-ache-inducing COVID-19.

But help is on the way.

The latest COVID-19 shot, approved by federal health regulators, should be coming any day now to a pharmacy near you.

“This is a different vaccine than what you had before,” says Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, an Evanston native and expert on the issue.

Pinsky is medical director for infection control at Edward Hospital. Edward is part of the Evanston-based NorthShore University HealthSystem.

The latest vaccine is targeted at a new COVID variant.

The COVID virus has “evolved,” Pinsky explains.

“As the virus does this, it becomes more immune” to previously built-up antibodies.

This latest shot, Pinsky says, “will neutralize the virus much better.”

Nationally, for the week ending Sept. 9, there were more than 20,500 hospital admissions, a 7.7% increase over the week before, according to the CDC.

Closer to home, Evanston Hospital had six COVID inpatients as of Sept. 13, far below the pandemic peaks of 2020 and 2021, and the Omicron surge of 2022.

However, the NorthShore system is seeing a slight increase lately, with 67 COVID inpatients over eight facilities, with four patients in intensive care.

By comparison, Dr. Pinsky’s Edward Hospital had 168 COVID inpatients in the first week of January 2022, so certainly things are much better than they were before.

“I don’t anticipate ICU’s being full or people on ventilators” in the current uptick, he says.

However, COVID can still be dangerous, particularly for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

“We need to make sure that the highest risk people get the message” about being vaccinated, Pinsky says, although that message can apply to everyone, ages six months and over.

While getting vaccinated is not a guarantee against getting COVID, the shot makes it less likely that symptoms will be severe.

While it may seem that a new COVID shot comes out every week (not true, of course), Pinsky says “we have to think about COVID differently.”

“We’re trying to get away from the word ‘booster,'” he notes.

Rather, the COVID shot should be viewed just like the flu shot — “get it every year.”

A child receiving COVID vaccination in Evanston in 2021.

And speaking of flu shots, you can also get that shot at the same time you get the next COVID vaccination.

And another respiratory illness, RSV, also lurks. RSV shots are currently available for those over 60.

They used to call it the “cold and flu season.”

Maybe the “cold and flu and COVID and RSV season” is now more appropriate.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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